For those wanting to expand on their writing skills in a journalistic sense, this thread will hopefully help you on that journey. The idea behind any piece of writing isn't some far-off philosophical point (usually). What most writing tries to accomplish is either stating an idea or raising a question. The very best works of writing will often do both. So in this amateur guide, I can hopefully share something to help formulate essays, articles, novellas, or any other kind of writing.
Disclaimer: I possess no comprehensive knowledge of writing nor do I have any extensive background in journalism, be it occupational or academic. What I've learned and what I say in this thread is what I've used and learned over time in order to be satisfied with my work and make others happy to have read it. Take what I say with a grain of salt as I am no expert or professional when it comes to writing or journalism.
With a decent understanding of the basis of writing, you'll be better off than most when they begin writing. Schooling in English generally doesn't focus on what constitutes a good piece of writing, such as what logic entails and how to argue. Before that can be explored, the very basics need to be mastered. This includes the ability to simply write well to the point where your writing contains little to no errors. That means that your punctuation cannot contain major mistakes, every word must be spelled correctly and each word used must have its own sensible place within the sentence and the context of the topic. Casp has created an in-depth guide on common grammatical mistakes that people are prone to making, so check out that thread if you think you could use a refresher on what some of those errors are.
As for how to actually write any piece, you will need a process. That process will depend from person to person as everyone thinks differently and has their own ways to come up with solutions. My process for writing an article is as follows:
- I will find a newly posted piece of information about something that interests me or something that I am at least relatively familiar with. This is important, because your best work will come from something that you feel strongly about or have some knowledge on.
- After finding said topic to write on, I'll invest myself into the information that's new and think of ways to write about those details that would interest me. This is also important, because it is more difficult to infer what will be interesting to others. As I said before, people think differently so the best way to convey information in an interesting way is to think objectively about how you could word the news to make it interesting to you.
- I always start with an introduction which should include enough information, in layman's terms, so that anyone could read the topic and know what is being talked about. You can talk about a game or product's release information if it's been out for awhile, you can talk about its developers or any previous work, and you can talk about the premise of the game or product and what it's all about. In less common instances, you can talk about a popular game or product's commercial success, if its won any awards or topped any charts, and things of that nature as those facts can be interesting to know.
- The introduction should always end by talking about the point of the article - it's your thesis statement. Structuring of essays and journalistic articles should be similar, since they are both making a point, conveying information, and they both need to keep readers interested. The better you are at making an argumentative case, the better your writing will be. Writing in the professional world is all about making a point, even when it comes to writing something like a work of fiction.
- The paragraphs following the introduction should tell the reader about what is new or what the point of your article is. Don't beat around the bush when it comes to explaining what is new. Oftentimes, you'll find that less is more. Visual examples can also be of use here.
- On the other hand, don't skimp out readers when it comes to news just for the sake of being concise. While it is good to summarize news rather than overdo it when you're explaining details, it's never good to leave out important information about an update, announcement, trailer, or anything like that. Lay out all of the information you can provide to readers and then figure out how to instill every bit of information in a meaningful way.
- Conclude by wrapping everything up or by offering an open-ended bit that will make readers want to discuss what they've just seen. Leave room for them to formulate their own thoughts and opinions and don't involve your own perspective unless it's called for, such as in a review or an opinionated piece.
The most beneficial advice I can give to anyone looking to write is that feedback is essential for improvement! Read your own work or have someone read it for you; post it in this section and have others peer review it. Go do something around your house for 10-30 minutes and then come back to take another look at what you've written. You might not find any glaring mistakes, but you might find something that could be worded better or said in a different way to make it clearer for readers.
The most common feedback I've given anyone who's submitted content to the homepage is that it's lacking in what I call flow; meaning it doesn't have natural sentence structuring and it's hard to get from one thought to another. One thing that separates good and bad writing is how easy it is to follow and understand. If an article can't keep someone interested enough to read, or the structuring is so off that it becomes laborious to read, then chances are those readers aren't going to keep reading. That is why it is imperative to read your own work. Say the whole thing aloud and emphasize breaks, commas, and periods to note if it's easy to read and in turn, easy to understand.
So maybe you've nailed it down to a process and you always make sure to get feedback on your work, but something's not clicking. There's always something wrong but you can't make out what it is exactly. Unfortunately, there's no single solution to this issue. Sometimes, it takes longer to sink in for people, even if they have an interest in writing. One good way to build up on this is to look at examples of writing in journalism that just didn't work out. Check out some work from educational websites, such as a college website that has posted something relating to bad examples of writing. There, you can find staple examples of where a certain sentence went wrong and how to improve that.
Aspiring writers start out with the entire notion of writing being new to them, so mistakes are commonplace and that's okay. With more experience, you'll try new things and find out what works and what doesn't work. Not everything you try will work and that's okay, too, but it's important to understand why they don't work and how you can improve.